Liesl & Po: review

October 2, 2011 2011, 5 star books, fairy tales, lauren oliver, middle grade, Wendy 10

Liesl & Po
by Lauren Oliver

Every once in awhile, a children’s book comes along that whisks you away to another world–and if you’re very lucky, at the end of the story, it’s one that also illuminates your own. Liesl & Po extends a delightful invitation to wizardry and adventure, but it’s also a gentle and poignant rumination on love and loss.

Liesl has been locked away in her stepmother’s attic for a very long time, ever since her beloved father got sick. One night, a pensive ghost named Po appears in her room and lifts the veil between the everyday world and the one Beyond. What follows is a wonderful journey overflowing with heart and hope and humor.

I was thoroughly charmed by Liesl, whose plucky courage and ingenuity are matched by the thoughtful, drifting Po and the hopelessly smitten Will, a young alchemist’s apprentice who accidentally sets off a troublesome chain of events when he misplaces a box full of magic. The trio is joined by an unforgettably madcap cast of characters, each with their own identities and worries and dreams, and the author deftly weaves all their interconnected threads together into a story that feels fresh and funny and thoroughly original.

Not at all as mannered or as self-conscious as Breadcrumbs, which ultimately showed its seams a little too much, this fairy tale adventure is tripping with charm and written with exceptional intelligence and sensitivity. The author’s note indicates that the book was written in just two months following the sudden death of her best friend, and the extraordinary love behind that inspiration hovers wistfully over every page.


…he had imagined it perfectly: how he would come around the corner and see that tiny square of light so many stories above him, and see her face floating there like a single star.


He might have begun to blur, letting the infinity tug on him gently from all sides, like sand being pulled by an eternal tide. He might have already begun the process of becoming a part of Everything. He would begin to feel the electricity from distant stars pulsing through him like a heartbeat. He would feel the weight of old planets on his shoulders, and he would feel the winds of distant corners of the universe blowing through him.


My heart swells up with ineffable love for this book, which has instantly found its place beside classics such as Peter Pan and The Secret Garden–and yes, it really is that good. Between the dizzying adventures and the sly cleverness of the writing and the quiet emotion, Liesl & Po reminded me especially of Mary Poppins in a huge way—particularly in the moments when you catch a fleeting glimpse of something bigger than your own story and your own self.

If there’s a child in your life or a child in your heart who still longs for shining adventure, Liesl & Po will take her there. It’s beautiful. It’s transformative. It’s magic.

Release Date: October 4, 2011

Rated 5 out of 5 stars

A Note About the Book: I’d highly recommend obtaining the hardcover of this book if you can. The cover is gorgeous (click on the cover to enlarge and see for yourself!) and there are wonderfully simple pencil drawings throughout by Kei Acedera, some of which can be seen on the author’s website here. It will make a spectacular gift for the right person for the holidays. Mwark.

Recommended for fans of classic children’s/middle grade literature, fans of Harry Potter, and fans of Catherynne M. Valente. 

10 Responses to “Liesl & Po: review”

  1. Melissa

    I loved this book as well, and I would have included it it my top ten if it wasn’t for the fact that I already had two other Oliver books on my list! I also agree that the hardcover copy is jaw-dropping-ly beautiful. Oliver is truly a talented writer and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of her books!

  2. Karen

    I’ve had this one since May but you have just made me move it up the TBR pile. It sounds wonderful!

  3. ashelynn hetland

    fantastic review! it makes me want to pick up the ARC (which is taunting me by being right next to me) and avoid homework until i’m finished.

  4. jowearsoldcoats

    This book looks wonderful, Wendy!
    It’s been on my radar for a while now… might have to treat myself. :)

    Fantastic review, my love!

  5. Jenny

    Yay! So glad to know you enjoyed this one as much as you did, I’m really looking forward to it:) I love a good fairy tale and Lauren Oliver rarely disappoints so I need this one in my hands asap:)